Socially Engaged Arts, Or Sea Essay

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Socially Engaged Art. Definition. There exists a cornucopia of terminology when it comes to activism realized through the arts. Among them are: “social practice” (which circumvents the method of engagement); “socially engaged art”; “arts activism”; “social justice art”; “community-based art”; etc. (Dewhurst, 2010; Helguera, 2011). Although many of these terms can be used interchangeably, for the sake of consistency this paper will refer to this practice as “socially engaged arts,” or SEA. As Dewhurst aptly outlines, “Despite these various names, this work often shares a commitment to create art that draws attention to, mobilizes action towards, or attempts to intervene in systems of inequality or injustice” (2010, p.1). Platt (2010) places singular emphasis on the artist who is “committed to engaging contemporary political issues…convinced of the urgent necessity to use the power of art…to make visible what is kept invisible…” (p. xiv). The work of the participants of SEA is one half to a whole for creating arts, the other half being the audience participation and feedback. As Shank (2004) alleges, the two main strategies for presenting SEA to audiences are targeting powerful organizations and constituents, or powerless organizations and constituents (p. 539). Platt’s vision of the lone artist is better utilized for global exposure with powerful audiences to react to injustices made visible, however this paper will focus primarily on engaging audiences who are marginalized.
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